To mark this year’s Trans Day of Remembrance, PinkNews approached all the major political parties in the UK to ask about their commitments to transgender rights and what they are doing to mark the events.
The lack of response from many was shocking to say the least.
In October, well in advance of Trans Awareness Week, which takes place from 13 to 19 November, and Trans Day of Remembrance on 20 November, we contacted every UK party with political representatives at the national level.
In other words, those who sit and make decisions at Westminster, Holyrood, the Senedd and Stormont.
We asked three questions:
Of the 16 parties approached, only five responded with in-depth clarity on their policies and actions: Plaid Cymru, the Green Party, Scottish Greens, the Alliance Party and the Liberal Democrats.
The silence was deafening from the Conservatives, Labour and the Scottish National Party.
Here’s what those who did respond told us.
The Party of Wales, Plaid Cymru, currently has three members in the House of Commons, one in the House of Lords and 12 in the Senedd, as well as wider representation in local government.
When asked if the party would mark Trans Day of Remembrance, a spokesperson said it does so every year, stating: “Transgender women are women, transgender men are men, and non-binary people are valid.
“In Plaid Cymru, we will use the opportunity of this day to stand with our trans siblings in Wales and across the world, like we do so often in our Senedd, in Westminster and across all communities in Wales. We will continue to call out the abuse, slander and persecution that so many face merely for the so-called ‘crime’ of being themselves.
“More than just marking this day, Plaid Cymru wants to ensure that trans people are free to express their identities and live in peace.
“Transphobia is extremely dangerous, and we can counter it by making sure that trans people are included in all aspects of society, including in workplaces and through trans-inclusive sports.”
The party described the culture war against trans people as “horrific” and said what the Tories are “trying to stir up is divisive and dangerous”.
The spokesperson went on to say: “We see it all too often in our own Senedd, where there is a relentless attack from the Conservative benches.
“We must, as a society, call this out for what it is: the Conservative Party trying to scapegoat all its failures on to a marginalised community.
“In contrast, we are proud of Plaid Cymru’s record in campaigning for, and alongside, the trans community, having led the campaign to establish Wales’s first transgender clinic, and in having adopted strong policies in relation to trans equality.
“All Plaid Cymru candidates must sign up to the party’s trans equality and inclusion policy.”
The party supports reforming the GRA and wants to introduce a “streamlined, de-medicalised process based on self-declaration and in line with international best practice”, the spokesperson added.
“We call for the devolution of powers necessary to introduce this change and will uphold trans people’s right to continue to access services and facilities in accordance with their gender identity.
“We also support efforts for full recognition and protection from discrimination for asexual and non-binary people under the law.”
Plaid Cymru believes everyone has the right to access gender-based services and will continue to campaign against conversion therapy in Wales, seeking a ban inclusive of all trans and gender-queer people,” they vowed.
“We are extremely proud to have gained the LGBTQ+ action plan, as part of our work with the Welsh government. This important document sets out how we can make Wales the most LGBTQ+ friendly nation in Europe.
“We are also proud to be building a fairer, more inclusive and representative Senedd that will more closely resemble the diverse communities of Wales.”
The Green Party of England and Wales has one member in the House of Commons and two in the House of Lords, alongside representation in local government.
In a statement given to PinkNews, Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer said: “Trans people are currently among society’s most marginalised communities, facing discrimination every day and unacceptable barriers to basic necessities in life, such as housing, healthcare and employment.
“It is a tragic consequence of this discrimination that Trans Day of Remembrance is such an important and necessary date to mark, but it is vital that we honour all our trans friends and family who we have lost too soon.
“The Green Party is clear that trans rights are human rights, and we are proud of our strong policies on trans inclusion, as voted for by our members.”
It’s the Greens’ “priority to champion diversity and be a welcoming and inclusive party for all”, including campaigning for the rights of trans people, women and “all oppressed groups”, Denyer went on to say.
“Our approach is intersectional, recognising that it is often those facing several overlapping oppressions (e.g. Black trans women, disabled lesbian women) who face the most hostility, and that the liberation of all these groups is bound up together.
“So, over the past year, it has been great to see many of our Green Party liberation groups campaigning together, running joint events for members, and sharing content that helps us learn through an intersectional lens.
“As a bisexual (cis) woman, I stand shoulder to shoulder with my trans siblings, and I am clear that my rights as a woman do not conflict with trans people’s rights. On the contrary, we share a common project: to fight for gender equality and against patriarchy.”
She went on to clarify that the Greens oppose conversion therapy in “all instances”, adding that “all LGBTIQA+ individuals must be protected by law, without exception, from this damaging and coercive practice”.
Alongside this, the party is in full support of the right of trans people to self-ID their gender.
“The process urgently needs [to be] kinder and fairer, with less bureaucracy and medicalisation, and without the expectation that applicants for a gender recognition certificate adhere to crude stereotypes and arbitrary milestones.
“This is a matter of basic dignity, especially important today, as without a gender recognition certificate
, many trans people will be laid to rest with the wrong name.”
On the matter of single-sex spaces, which has become highly contentious in both politics and the mainstream media, the Greens’ position is that the 2010 Equality Act “already enshrines trans people’s right to access the appropriate changing rooms, toilets and public services for their gender, and already allows service providers to make case-by-case decisions where necessary”, Denyer continued.
“We have no desire to change the law in this area, and we oppose this government’s attempts to undercut legal precedent.”
Separate to England and Wales’ Green Party, the Scottish Greens have seven members in the Scottish parliament and further representation at local government level.
A spokesperson for the party said it will be marking Trans Day of Remembrance, with equalities spokesperson Maggie Chapman speaking at an event to mark the day in Aberdeen.
“We as a party will also be publishing articles and social media online, and reaching out to our trans community in solidarity as we continue to advocate for trans rights,” the spokesperson added.
It is “outrageous” that trans lives are being “scapegoated and their identities are being weaponised” as part of a culture war based on “hate and bigotry”, they added.
“It is clear that those stoking hate and fear are trying to demonise an already vulnerable and marginalised group of people for their own political aims. This is not the kind of behaviour any politician or media outlet should be condoning, let alone participating in.
“We all have a duty to promote respect and dignity in the work we do.”
In response to the query about single-sex spaces and banning conversion therapy, the Scottish Greens said they “stand firmly with our trans siblings and always will”, insisting that they are the only party that wanted Scotland’s gender reform laws to “go further, by recognising the rights of younger trans people and of non-binary people”.
The spokesperson added: “We are clear that the rights of, and for, trans people do not conflict [with those] of and for women”, and any attempt to make them seem so was part of the culture war.
The Alliance Party is currently the third largest in the Northern Ireland Assembly, with 17 seats. It has one MP in the House of Commons.
A spokesperson for the party told PinkNews: “An important part of showing support for trans people is being vocally supportive of events such as the Trans Day of Remembrance.”
Alliance “supports steps to reform and simplify the gender recognition process” by replacing it with “a simple administrative process based on the principle of statutory declaration, and without intrusive medical diagnosis requirements”, they said.
The spokesperson added that Alliance would support the “inclusion of safeguards to prevent abuse of a statutory declaration process, such as penalties for fraudulent declarations”, a policy which the other parties who responded did not mention.
Alongside this, the party’s policies outline that it seeks to ban conversion therapy, create a “comprehensive strategy for transgender people, to ensure the distinct needs of transgender people are reflected in public services and other areas” and see waiting times reduced and “improved delivery models” for transgender people seeking access to healthcare.
In regard to single-sex spaces, the spokesperson said: “Trans people already have access to locations such as bathrooms, whether or not they have obtained a gender recognition certificate, and have been using them for decades.”
This access is, in their view, “not an absolute right” and cited examples where prisons and women’s refuges can conduct a risk assessment on a case-by-case basis and are able to exclude trans people from single-sex spaces where “a risk to others is identified”.
However, they continued by saying that the current reality is that “trans women also need protecting from male violence” because “trans people are among the most marginalised groups in society and far more likely to be victims of abuse than perpetrators”.
The Liberal Democrats have 15 MPs in the House of Commons, 82 peers in the House of Lords, four in the Scottish parliament and are well represented at local government level.
In response to PinkNews’ enquiry, Liberal Democrat women and equalities spokesperson Christine Jardine said the party will “absolutely” mark Trans Day of Remembrance.
She described it as an important opportunity to “acknowledge those who have lost their lives to transphobia, and reflect on how we as a society can ensure this never happens again”.
Jardine went on to say: “There is still a long way to go to achieve true equality for trans people. Too many are the victims of appalling hate crimes. Too many are at significant risk of suicide and self-harm. Too many face discrimination and harassment in the workplace, in school and on the street.
“I am proud that many Liberal Democrat members have long been at the forefront of the fight for equality, and I will be marking Trans Day of Remembrance by meeting with them to discuss how we can make it a reality.”
Addressing anti-trans culture wars directly, Jardine noted that the United Kingdom has long led the world in LGBTQ+ rights but in recent years this has “stalled”, with the UK continually dropping down international rankings – and “even [going] backwards”.
She remains deeply concerned to see a vulnerable group of people being dragged into a manufactured culture war”, Jardine said.
“We cannot forget the chilling impact these hostile narratives can have in practice, either. Last year, transphobic hate crimes in England and Wales hit a record high, and even the Home Office acknowledged that comments by politicians and the media may have contributed to this,” the MP for Edinburgh West added.
“All of us with a public platform have a responsibility to be mindful of the language we use. Liberal Democrats will always stand up to hatred and bigotry.”
Outlining specific policy positions, she said the Lib Dems have “fought long and hard” for a complete ban on conversion therapy and said it is “disappointing” the Tories have – yet again – broken their promise to deliver legislation.
“Liberal Democrats will keep pushing the government to finally bring the ban forward, and, when they do, we will scrutinise it carefully to make sure the ban on conversion therapy is watertight and trans-inclusive.
“We cannot allow this awful practice to continue.”
The party is also committed to reforming the gender recognition process to make it “less bureaucratic and intrusive” and to include non-binary people.
In terms of single-sex spaces, Jardine described the “hard-won protections” for such spaces as important.
“As the law makes clear, they should be inclusive of trans people wherever possible. However, there is a lack of clarity for individuals and service providers over how to make decisions that are often very difficult and sensitive. This benefits no one.
“That’s why Liberal Democrats are pushing the government to publish clear and comprehensive guidance on the use of any single-sex and separate-sex exceptions under the Equality Act.
“The aim of that guidance should be to ensure everyone who needs single-sex services – such as survivors of sexual violence or domestic abuse – can access them safely, to prevent unjustified discrimination against trans people, and to provide clarity and certainty to service providers and the public.
“It should be produced in consultation with those most likely to be affected, including women who have experienced sexual violence or domestic abuse, trans people and providers of single-sex services.”
Who did not respond:
- Scottish National Party
- Democratic Unionist Party (in Northern Ireland)
- Sinn Féin
- Social Democratic and Labour Party
- Reclaim Party
- Ulster Unionist Party
- Traditional Unionist Voice
- People Before Profit
Separate to this, the Alba Party did respond to our request but declined to issue a statement over issues raised by Fossil Free Pride at the Pink News Awards 2023.